The heart of the revolution
Two weeks previously, the population of Benghazi would not dare utter a word against Col. Qaddafi. Any public gatherings—even congregations of several people—could see people arrested. There was general mis-trust between friends, neighbours and colleagues. Qaddafi was in control.
On the 15th February, a civil protest in Libya’s second city was brutally quashed by security services, with people being shot for demonstrating. The following day, the funeral processions were dispersed in the same way. Come the 17th February, a full-scale civil uprising took place in the city, eventually leading to the capture of the barracks here. The revolt spread throughout eastern Libya, with Derna and Al-Baida coming under “rebel” control and large parts of the army defecting.
Qaddafi now has no control over the city, and the rebels control the country’s eastern border with Egypt, a vital supply line for the region.
Television channels are broadcasting images from the front-line, three hundred kilometres from eastern Libya’s capital, showing full-scale warfare as volunteer fighters and army defectors battle against the might of Qaddafi’s army and, reportedly, foreign mercenaries.
But the atmosphere in Benghazi is somewhat more calm. Here, the battle is fought with placards and slogans. It is a battle for morale, for publicity, for recognition.
To my friends who worry for my safety, fear not. This is not a war-zone. This is a revolution. And the Libyans of the east are incredibly generous when using us to fight their battle, the one with the foreign press.